Athletes in Ondo State Sports Council, on Monday in Akure, protested their 16 months unpaid allowance by the state government.
The athletes, who locked the gates of the sports council, carried placards with different inscriptions as: ”We need our allowance, enough is enough; ”All we are saying, pay our 16 months stipend, enough is enough!” and ”No alert, no opening of gates”.
Kazeem Aminu, a para-lifter with the sports council, told newsmen that it was unfair for the government to be owing them 16 months, with most of them having families to cater for.
Aminu said that athletes were promised payment of part of their allowances before embarking on the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) in Abuja, without receiving such payment.
“They haven’t paid our allowances in 16 months. Before we went to the festival, we met the management, which said before Christmas, the money would be paid. When we came back, it said the governor had approved eight months.
“We waited till December 30, we didn’t see anything. Again, we met our General Manager last week, he said the money they meant to pay us was not complete. We need our money to pay our house rents, feed ourselves so that we can improve our livelihood,” he said.
Michael Bankole, a weightlifter also said ”without the athletes, there would not be anything called sports council”.
Bankole urged the government to find a lasting solution to their plight, revealing that during the festive period, athletes could not fend for their family members due to the non-payment of their stipends and allowances.
“If we wanted to act according to how they were treating us, we would not have attended the festival, since we came back from the festival, they have been promising us ‘next week’.
“We are not slaves, it is just like they are enslaving us while those in the office are enjoying our sweats; when an athlete undergoes vigorous training for just N3,000 per month, while those in the office are enjoying and their money is never delayed.
“Without we athletes, they can’t have a job, they should consider us and pay us our money, we beg our governor to please intervene in our issue,” he said.
However, Commissioner for Youth Development and Sports, Saka Yusuf-Ogunleye, said that the money for the payment of eight months for allowance of athletes had been approved by the government last December.
Yusuf-Ogunleye said what happened was unfortunate, adding that government had offset some of the allowances met on ground from the last administration.
The commissioner said the money being paid to the athletes was not always paid on a monthly basis, but in bulk.
He added that the money had been approved and was passing through a process before it would become physical money for payment to the athletes.
“I just heard that the last administration was owing the athletes eight months during the last administration, government is a continuum and I already told them to bring the files and I promise to look into it.
“We are not father Christmas to be giving what is not asked, now that I have seen the file, I have told the General Manager to bring it and we will work on it,” he said.